April 10, 2014

Creative Outreach Projects Highlighted at Council on Evangelism and Witness

Top regional leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist world church heard examples of authentic Christianity on the morning of October 13, during the Council on Evangelism and Witness report to the movement’s 2013 Annual Council.

“People everywhere are looking for someone who represents integrity in their Christian experience,” said Rick McEdward, director of the Adventist world church’s Global Mission Study Centers. Church leaders should take the New Testament model of Christian witness, in which actions march in lockstep with words, as a cue, he said.

McEdward and Jerry Page, secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, introduced Irene Tarigan and Arlaine Djim, Indonesian professionals who quit stable, high-paying jobs to launch the Chinese Ministry Center in Jakarta, a center of influence impacting the city’s growing Chinese population. The center includes a health food store—proceeds from which pay the rent—a lecture hall, and space for worship and prayer.EVANGELISM COUNCIL: Mike Ryan, an Adventist world church general vice president, chairs the Council on Evangelism and Witness, which has been an Annual Council feature for ten years. [PHOTO: Ansel Oliver]

Tarigan and Djim first raised awareness of the center by hosting a health seminar and teaching the principles of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Since then, the center has steadily gained a reputation for supporting late-stage cancer patients whose doctors have given up on them, they said. The ministry recently outgrew the original center and now includes several satellite centers, each working with 60 to 100 people. Three out of four centers have spawned Adventist congregations that each see an average of 50 visitors every week.

In Melbourne, Australia, church members are distributing nine-volt batteries to their neighbors to activate smoke detectors. A conversation about safety in case of fire often segues into a discussion of God’s desire to protect them not only physically, but also spiritually.  

The church’s Trans-European Division is intensifying efforts to fund innovative outreach projects, said division President Bertil Wiklander. In London, the “Sabbath sofa” project gives Adventist young people a unique way to share the church’s belief in the seventh-day Sabbath. When passers-by take a break on a sofa strategically placed on a busy sidewalk, it’s an opportunity to talk about how Sabbath rest can bring balance to people’s lives and help them avoid burnout.

A report from leaders of the Japan Union Conference indicated that the region continues to face the challenges of growing secularism and an aging population. At one Adventist church in Tokyo, the youngest member is 62 years old. But a bright spot is a comprehensive urban evangelism project called Tokyo ’13 that leaders say is reenergizing the church in Japan.

In Australia, the new “Beyond” series is preparing audiences for public evangelism by first meeting needs and offering friendship. The 14-part documentary series uses storytelling to engage audiences from diverse cultural and faith backgrounds and address universal topics such as the search for hope and meaning. The series comes with a toolkit to guide personal evangelism.  

“In the hands of a loving Christian, 'Beyond' is mightily powerful in introducing the gospel in a contemporary context,” said Joanne Davies, an Adventist businesswoman who introduced the project.

Mike Ryan, an Adventist world church general vice president who chairs the Council on Evangelism and Witness, urged delegates to put special focus on the Middle East and China—two regions that he said pose “tremendous opportunities” but are still only home to a small percentage of Christians.

Political and religious sensitivities challenge outreach in both regions, but church leaders are working with local members to find new ways to contextualize the church’s message of hope and truly meet local needs.

General Conference president Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson echoed Ryan, asking delegates to make outreach to China and the Middle East a matter of prayer. “Take home this great burden,” Wilson said. “Think about it, pray about it and then let’s do something.”  

Delegates also heard an update on the Adventist world church’s Revival and Reformation initiative this morning. A production team from world church headquarters is headed for Northwest Africa this week to shoot reenactments of biblical stories, including the New Testament story of the Pentecost.

Andre Brink, associate director of the Adventist world church’s Communication department, said he hopes the stories will help modern Adventists better relate to timeless biblical principles.

“When there were problems, church members in the New Testament would come together and pray in a united way, and this would lead to growth in the church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” Brink said. “We are hoping this example inspires today’s church members to go back to the methods of the Bible.”